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Numbers 90-99 in the NFL


illwauk

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I was watching some footage of Packers-Jets game from 1973 on youtube and it stood out to me, like it always does, how defensive linesmen could wear numbers in the 80s back in the day. I know that was largely because the NFL didn't allow numbers in the 90s for the longest time. I can't personally recall ever seeing any footage or photos of players wearing numbers in the 90s from earlier than the 1980s. College players had already been wearing numbers in the 90s for quite some time by then (former Heisman winner Tom Harmon from Michigan was even known as "Old 98"), so does anyone know, or at least have any theories, as to why it took the NFL so long to open up numbers 90-99?

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Mainly roster limits. Through 1973, rosters were just 40 players. Remember the Vikings "40 for 60" patch?

Teams then did not stock every number, and especially in the days with no nameplates, number recycling was more prevalent. It was not until the 1974 season which the numbering standard was implemented.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Many of those defensive players probably wore 80s just because it was the number the equipment manager gave them.

It may not have been that 90s were necessarily prohibited. They probably just weren't necessary. The NFL numbers rules change in the 70's, as I remember it worded, didn't include numbers in the 90's, maybe just because there were very few, if any players, wearing numbers in that range. But I don't think it prohibited them, either, or else Mark Gastineau would have not been eligible to wear number 99, which he was wearing before the written rule was changed to allow defensive linemen and linebackers to wear 90-99 in addition to the number ranges already assigned.

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